Saturday night's dirt track fatality in New York in which Tony Stewart's car struck and killed 20 year old driver Kevin Ward, Jr. as he confronted Stewart's oncoming vehicle after getting out of his car is a tragedy, from every conceivable angle. Did Stewart simply not see Ward? It's a dark track, not a mega-money backed NASCAR sanctioned event with super speedway lighting. It's a hometown track, of which there are hundreds across the country. Was there a heat of the moment millisecond of mania where Stewart decided to intentionally direct his car - even a fraction of an inch towards the kid - if for no other reason than to scare him? We may never know. And whether it was horribly unlucky timing, negligence, or something sinister can be debated on a chat board or in a D.A.'s office. What most assuredly needs to be a front bumper topic is the rules. Currently, some rules are on the books mandating that a driver stay in his car after a wreck. Implementing more such rules though could be sticky at very least. Who knows better than the driver how much danger he perceives he's in by remaining seated for fear of fire, or of being a sitting duck for an unsuspecting car coming around a turn. So, rules must go to his actions once he gets OUT of the car. They should come with harsher penalties that must be more readily enforced. Auto racing's long accepted culture of "track rage" yielding mere slaps on the wrists just met its demise as well on Saturday night. Because, when it's man vs. car, there's only ever one ultimate outcome.
Tom James is a 2-time Edward R. Murrow Award-winning sportscaster, who does play-by-play & studio work for the ESPN Family of Networks (including ESPN Wide World of Sports, ESPN3, college football, basketball, & a wide array of other sports), CBS Sports Network, Lax Sports Network, & Pro Watercross. Tom also hosts and produces sports documentaries & is part of the weekly regionally syndicated college football radio show, "Southern Pigskin Tonight."